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Road warriors: No. 8 Texas bashes No. 3 Kansas in Lawrence, 84-59

By Mark Rosner
American-Statesman Correspondent
Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji holds on to a rebound against Texas forward Kai Jones in the second half of Saturday's 84-59 win in Lawrence, Kan. It matched the biggest margin of victory against Kansas in Lawrence since 1955.

Ten years ago, a young, energetic basketball coach surprised the country by leading a mid-major program to the NCAA Final Four.

For the next four seasons, larger schools with their own visions of Final Four appearances tried to entice Shaka Smart away from Virginia Commonwealth, until finally Texas did. Smart is 43 now, coaching in his sixth season with the Longhorns, and he might have a team capable again of making that trip to the national semifinals.

The eighth-ranked Longhorns, blessed with talent and experience, hammered No. 3 Kansas 84-59 Saturday in Lawrence in front of an Allen Fieldhouse crowd of 2,500, the crowd size limited by COVID-19 precautions.

Texas (8-1, 2-0 Big 12) has only two victories at Allen Fieldhouse, the last one in 2011, the same season that Smart’s VCU team beat Kansas, a No. 1 seed, in an NCAA Southwest Region final in San Antonio to advance to the Final Four. 

The Longhorns’ victory margin matched the most by a Kansas opponent at Allen Fieldhouse since the building opened in 1955. Missouri beat Kansas 91-66 on Feb. 1, 1989.

Texas guard Donovan Williams reacts after scoring against Kansas in Saturday's win in Lawrence.

Smart said he hopes the win does not mark the high point of the Longhorns’ season.

“I mean, if this is the peak on Jan. 2, then that would be really, really disappointing,” Smart said after the game. His players understand.

“We can’t beat Kansas and think our season is over,” guard Courtney Ramey said. “There are a lot of things we can get better at.”

Ramey, a junior, led Texas with 18 points. Matt Coleman III provided 13 points to go with six rebounds and six assists. Jericho Sims produced his first double-double of the season, 11 points and a season-best 12 rebounds. Andrew Jones scored 14 and collected seven rebounds, and Kai Jones added 12 points.

None of these guys are newbies to big stages.

“With maturity comes growth,” said Coleman, a senior. “Over time you just you get more confident, you get more comfortable. We have confidence in ourselves and confidence in each other.”

Texas guard Courtney Ramey looks to make a pass against Kansas in Saturday's big win in Lawrence. “We can’t beat Kansas and think our season is over,” Ramey said. “There are a lot of things we can get better at.”

The Longhorns outshot Kansas badly — 49.2% to 30.8. Texas had a huge advantage on 3-pointers, converting 12 of 26 — including its first six in the second half — while limiting Kansas to 3 of 23.

Kansas (8-2, 2-1) hit 16 of 37 3-pointers in its most recent game before facing Texas, a 79-65 victory over then-No. 8 West Virginia.  Much of the Longhorns’ strategy angled toward preventing a repeat performance of that marksmanship.

Freshman Jalen Wilson led Kansas with 20 points, including nine straight for the Jayhawks in the second half. Wilson made a layup, a free throw and a 3-pointer, cutting a 10-point deficit to four early in the second half.

Maybe less experienced Texas players would have lost their poise, even in a relatively empty Allen Fieldhouse. But this team responded by nailing four straight 3-pointers during a span of 2 minutes, 9 seconds. Andrew Jones made the first, followed by Coleman and two from Ramey, and the Longhorns had a 13-point lead.

“That was basically all she wrote,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “They’re good and they are superior athletically. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or what. That was embarrassing.”

And not something the Jayhawks will soon forget.

“We will see them again (Feb. 22)," Coleman said. “They're going to remember this.”

Notes: Two UT reserve forwards, Royce Hamm Jr. and Kamaka Hepa, did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons. ... Another backup forward, junior Gerald Liddell, has left the team and intends to transfer. ... Kansas freshman Bryce Thompson, a top sub, missed the game with a back injury. Starting guard Marcus Garrett left the game with 7:13 remaining. Self said Garrett would likely undergo concussion protocols.